But It's Art!!!!!

Aziyade

Well-known member
Oh, my goodness, first I read that as "Scandanavian CHEF." I could just see this wild eyed berserker slicing the lutefisk at a smorgasbord...

Thanks for the information, A'isha.
HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA!

I'm flashing on the Muppet Show -- too funny.
 

belly_dancer

New member
ok.... I sort of remember the orig. Ruric video clip... but since I am stealing time from work... (& I own my own business...... had MUCH more time on internet when I had a REAL job;) ) could someone PLEASE REPOST the video (link?) so we could remember what you all (hilarious people!) are typing about??!!!!
thanks!
 

mauraz

New member
Hi there again!

please convey to her that in order to capture the spirit of belly dance, it really is necessary to use Middle Eastern music. Otherwise she is doing something else. If she WANTS to do something else, perhaps a different costume or something, in order to not confuse her audience, or an announcement saying that she is doing fusion??? .
If you are basing your suggestions re: fusion and costume on the veil dance video, well, I can understand why you would not consider it belly dancing, especially if you find it insipid. But it was just one of 6 or 8 dances that evening, most of which included quite a bit of belly dancing, and any other costume would have been inappropriate.

If you are basing your suggestions on the premise that 'belly dance must be MED to be belly dance' then I disagree. Perhaps you have been calling yourself a belly dancer for twenty years in an attempt to make belly dance = MED and nothing but MED, but many of your MED peers have been avoiding the label altogether. When Ruric started dancing in Kentucky, the mid-eastern dancers in the area did not advertise themselves as 'belly dancers.' They practiced 'the beautiful art of middle-eastern dance' or Raqs Sharki or maybe, if they were very daring, la danse Oriental. 'Belly dance' was considered... vulgar. From what I read, this was a common attitude in the MED community across the country until quite recently. Since Ruric is not a MED dancer, she decided to describe herself as performing 'American belly dance.' A mere three years later, some respectable MED dancers are now willing to describe themselves as performing belly dance. But I strongly feel that many non-MED dancers contributed to the change in perception of what belly dance is, and attempts by the strictly MED community to claim that belly dance must = MED will be perceived by the non-MED as 'thanks for keeping the seat warm, we'll take over now.' I don't think it will work.

And I absolutely refuse to argue with anyone, learned or otherwise, as to what the 'spirit of bellydance' consists of. To each their muse.

By the way, what with one local gym offering 'belly dance striptease' classes and a local belly dance studio following up with 'StripTease' classes ('Learn a new routine every class and take it to the club that night!') I suspect the MED dancers who thought it safe to be 'belly dancers' may be retreating en masse shortly....

Regards
 

mauraz

New member
Hi there wascally wabbit!

HI MAURA!!!!! (waves from the other side of the river!)

..I've had a couple of people tell me I have no business being on stage. ... I don't care. I've been told I'm not Egyptian enough and that I dance with an accent. Oh well.
I'm aghast. I think I saw your first public performance - at the MEDSOK concert three years ago. You were first in the line up, yes? The house was shaking with applause when you got done. I've seen you several times since then... Jo Hadley's workshops and MEDSOK concerts. Heard nothing but compliments for the pretty blonde in the beautiful costume and some relief that SOMEONE was still doing Egyptian-style dance..

The only debate-able thing was related to THAT particular clip -- was it bellydance or something else?
I think it is far more of a veil dance than a belly dance. And it was never intended as an example of something excellent, just as part of a discussion with a young man who was afraid that non-MED music meant no attempt to improvise. My remarks in the original thread vis a vis a year's worth of work just beginning to yield magic moments (none of which are on video) was quite accurate. Moments, not hours. The band is beginning to understand that Ruric expects to perform with them, not dance to them. Ruric is beginning to understand what she can tease out and what she should leave alone. Give it another year. Right now it is often good entertainment, next year it may be real art.

Um, I like the Cirque du Rurique :)
me too. And I also like the music she USUALLY dances to, but it is not live, lady bug. The original thread, as I keep saying, was attempting to deal with the problems inherent in the reality of thousands of dancers vs. dozens of MED musicians....and that maybe the way to rectify that was to learn to dance to our indigenous music..

Oh, I DO think Nashwa WILL help Ruric access her inner "middle eastern woman" -- Nashwa has such an aware dance presence, delicate and strong at the same time... Ruric is already smitten with her after just a few lessons. Ruric told me that Nashwa goes to all of Mecca's tribal concerts, by the way -- what a lady!

Please say what you think about anything at any point... Sometimes I think the constant stream of 'nice, great, totally raqs' that dancers feed each other is actually passive/aggressive desire to cause the other to fail by giving inaccurate feedback... so don't make me paranoid :) Except my MEDSOK minutes... don't criticize those... any criticism of those is DEFINATELY a sign of someone who doesn't understand my art...
 

mauraz

New member
Ruric-Amari

Dear Shanazel,
I got so curious that I looked it up in my handy dandy dictionary. It seems there is a "Scandinavian Chief" ( Berserker???) who was named Rurik who lived about 880 AD and is considerd to be the founder of the first Russian Dynasty. Well, we were at least somewhat in the same neighborhood!
Ruric-Amari is Ruric's 'Christian' name with a hypen added.. I got it out of a science fiction novel that I read while I was pregnant with her. Ruric Amari was the best swordswoman on that particular planet and resolute and steadfast in her convictions. She got herself exiled by the end of the book but was not disheartened. I thought her an excellent role model even though she was imaginary. Odd how Ruric's favorite prop ended up being a sword, though.
 
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Aisha Azar

New member
Art

Dear Mauraz,
Yes, I DO consider belly dance to be a specific ethnic dance, and so does most of the western audience and every Arab ( and I do mean every Arab) that I have ever spoken to about it. I do not base this on my own feelings, or on the feelings of other dancers, but on the consensus of the general audeince, who think belly dance is indeed Middle Eastern. I see more people questioning and leaning the use of the term to mean any dance they choose. There was a time when the word "fusion" was not used at all. Now it is being used liberally and often, as it should be. Over on the Med Teachers/Directors forum right now, there is a discussion about styles and what to call them, etc. This is becoming a big issue in dance right now...something that gives me heart because it has not always been like this. There was a time not so long ago when it was all just "belly dance".
Re the name Ruric: Nice to know where it came from in the case of a dancer using it.
Regards,
A'isha
 
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Aziyade

Well-known member
just as part of a discussion with a young man who was afraid that non-MED music meant no attempt to improvise.
Well that's just stupid. ?? I improvised practically my whole Goth set, which certainly wasn't middle eastern, and actually I think it would be a lot easier to improvise to music you're culturally familiar with (like for me, 80's pop cause I grew up with it.) For ME personally, when I'm dancing to Egyptian music I feel like I have to choreograph everything from footwork to facial expression in order to accurately emulate a cultural dance that's not of my culture.

But then I do what I call "accidental improv" which translates into "I carefully choreographed this whole piece, but promptly forgot all of it the moment I stepped on stage."

BUT: My fear would be that if we started dancing too much to our "own" music, we would lose some of the beauty and the differentness (is that a word?) of what gives MEDance its distinctive MEDance look and feel.


The band is beginning to understand that Ruric expects to perform with them, not dance to them.
Oh, I JUST had that conversation with a drummer -- I never really made that distinction, having not really danced to live music before. I think that's a whole 'nother skill set, and frankly the thought of doing it terrifies me as much as excites me!


Except my MEDSOK minutes... don't criticize those... any criticism of those is DEFINATELY a sign of someone who doesn't understand my art...
LOL!
 

Mara2

New member
Dear Group,
There are a couple pf points that I think need clarification. Many people think that those of us who believe that belly dance means something very specifically ethnic are against innovations in the dance.
The idea that one can only innovate by losing the ethnic essence of the dance is just way off base. I find that the native dancers from countries of origin DO innovate, and they do so without losing the basic spirit and feeling of the dance itself. Belly dance in its countries of origin is an evolving art, but because of the cultural connections, the dance retains its spirit and feeling. It is a dynamic art that moves in its own cultures and with them, taking up influences and putting their own unique ethnic spin on them..
RE the idea that authentic belly dancers do not improvise: MOST authentic dancers improvise. Even when they choreograph for a solo dance, that choreography is much different than the western idea of choreography. There is no such thing as a movement arrangement being locked in stone for them. The reason is because the music and the physical dancer and the emotional feeling of the moment that is the result of the combination of the two, is not going to be the same two times in a row. The physical body is another musical instrument that expresses the abstract cultural/emotional content of the music and manifests it visually, along with the feeling that the music gives the dancer. This can only be done when there is room for improvisation.
Regards,
A'isha
Dear A'isha,
I've only read about half this conversation, but have to whole-heartedly agree with EVERYTHING you have written thus far. THANK YOU so very much for saying what some of us are thinking. There are not many dancers who even care about respecting or preserving the dance any more. Many kudos to you.
Warmest Regards,
Tegan
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc

Dear A'isha,
I've only read about half this conversation, but have to whole-heartedly agree with EVERYTHING you have written thus far. THANK YOU so very much for saying what some of us are thinking. There are not many dancers who even care about respecting or preserving the dance any more. Many kudos to you.
Warmest Regards,
Tegan

Dear Tegan,
Thank you!! It's good to know that there are others who feel like I do about clearly defining what we are doing. I think it is important, not only for rhe preservations of ethnic forms, but so that our audeinces and srudents can really have a better understanding of what we are presenting all the way around.
Regards,
A'isha

PS: I see you are from Whidbey Island. I live in Spokane!
 

jenc

New member
This is just to start everyone off again. I personally would include AmCab as Bellydance. Partly because there are not an inconsiderable number of people who consider themselves to dance, or have been considered by others to dance egyptian style, when they absolutely do not in my book. I won't name names at this juncture, though this might be fun later and I have seen them named in other threads.
There are many dancers who aim at egyptian and just don't get there. See my other post in dance styles. We don't have the equivalent of AmCab in the UK, or do we:? My first teacher advertised that she taught Egyptian dance, but when I saw an egyptian dancer, I was just blown away. I don't consider said teacher to be egyptian style, but she obviously does.
I have seen somewhere a quote from an Egyptian dancer who said somethig on the lines of The American dancers copied what they thought they saw and now we have new steps.
I have also heard that it is difficult to get real egyptian teaching in egypt as not only are the egyptians taking in more western influences, but they are teaching what they think westerners want to learn.
A'ishe said that egyptians can incorporate western influence without losing the egyptian esssence of the dance. This leads to a couple of further comments. If an egyptian dancer borrows a move from an AmCab dancer, is that move now bellydance.
Can I learn egyptian dance without transforming it into a western version?
If bellydance is to be defined as tightly as A'ishe does, who is to be the judge.
If someone tries passionately to copy egyptian style but just doesn't quite get it, are they trying to bellydance but only achieving AmCab. Does this make AmCab a lesser dance.
It is very interesting to me that we have had a long argument about whether the term bellydance can include AmCab without any attempt to look at what makes egyptian style, egyptian style.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Egyptian and American oriental

This is just to start everyone off again. I personally would include AmCab as Bellydance. Partly because there are not an inconsiderable number of people who consider themselves to dance, or have been considered by others to dance egyptian style, when they absolutely do not in my book. I won't name names at this juncture, though this might be fun later and I have seen them named in other threads.
There are many dancers who aim at egyptian and just don't get there. See my other post in dance styles. We don't have the equivalent of AmCab in the UK, or do we:? My first teacher advertised that she taught Egyptian dance, but when I saw an egyptian dancer, I was just blown away. I don't consider said teacher to be egyptian style, but she obviously does.
I have seen somewhere a quote from an Egyptian dancer who said somethig on the lines of The American dancers copied what they thought they saw and now we have new steps.
I have also heard that it is difficult to get real egyptian teaching in egypt as not only are the egyptians taking in more western influences, but they are teaching what they think westerners want to learn.
A'ishe said that egyptians can incorporate western influence without losing the egyptian esssence of the dance. This leads to a couple of further comments. If an egyptian dancer borrows a move from an AmCab dancer, is that move now bellydance.
Can I learn egyptian dance without transforming it into a western version?
If bellydance is to be defined as tightly as A'ishe does, who is to be the judge.
If someone tries passionately to copy egyptian style but just doesn't quite get it, are they trying to bellydance but only achieving AmCab. Does this make AmCab a lesser dance.
It is very interesting to me that we have had a long argument about whether the term bellydance can include AmCab without any attempt to look at what makes egyptian style, egyptian style.

Dear Jenc,
As long as people do not understand that the dance is something beyond just the movements, there will not be any an equitable answer to the problem. No one has ever intimated that American Cabaret or any other good fusion is a "lesser dance form"; only that it is not belly dance as defined by what the average westerner thinks they are seeing when they hear those words.
Regards,
A'isha
 

jenc

New member
But of course Amcab is exactly what the average westerner thinks of as BD. If the average practitioner can't tell the difference - why do you think that the average westerner can tell the difference. Indeed the average westerner will think that AmCab is absolutely the real thing and not egyptian because what they expect is flashy tricks - and not the playful effortless of a real egyptian dance. You see comments on youtube slating the real thing.
But I did not want to say that either you or I would really wish to say that AmCab is inherently inferior. I only wished to point out where your position runs into difficulties.
You have not picked up my point. Many dancers can't tell the difference, or are earnestly aspiring to be the real thing but missing. Even among the dance community, opinions on who does or does not bdance egyptian style vary wildly. How come you think that the general public is more informed than the dancers!
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc.

But of course Amcab is exactly what the average westerner thinks of as BD. If the average practitioner can't tell the difference - why do you think that the average westerner can tell the difference. Indeed the average westerner will think that AmCab is absolutely the real thing and not egyptian because what they expect is flashy tricks - and not the playful effortless of a real egyptian dance. You see comments on youtube slating the real thing.
But I did not want to say that either you or I would really wish to say that AmCab is inherently inferior. I only wished to point out where your position runs into difficulties.
You have not picked up my point. Many dancers can't tell the difference, or are earnestly aspiring to be the real thing but missing. Even among the dance community, opinions on who does or does not bdance egyptian style vary wildly. How come you think that the general public is more informed than the dancers!

Dear Jenc,
The average American my not be able to tell what kind of dance he/she is watching, but they BELIEVE that what they are seeing is from the Middle East if they are not told that it is not. That is why it is so important to clearly define what is being presented.
My position does not run into difficulties at all except with dancers who do not see that there is a difference. Its just a matter of defining clearly what is being done on stage. You missed MY point. I did not say the general public is more informed than dancers. Most dancers these days are beginning to understand how to look at different forms of the dance and identify. You get even newish dancers now saying that this or that dancer is pretty westernized, though she uses what they call "Egyptian" accents, etc.
And.... I have danced Egyptian for a long time now. The audience may not know what the difference is, but when they see the two styles side by side, they can tell there is something different about them.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Mara2

New member
Dear Tegan,
Thank you!! It's good to know that there are others who feel like I do about clearly defining what we are doing. I think it is important, not only for rhe preservations of ethnic forms, but so that our audeinces and srudents can really have a better understanding of what we are presenting all the way around.
Regards,
A'isha

PS: I see you are from Whidbey Island. I live in Spokane!
Again, I agree with you completely. I admire your courage in standing up for your beliefs as you do also. When someone doesn't understand what you're saying (which can happen often online) it can get ugly. :O

I would love to meet you! Do you ever get over to this area? There's a monthly Hafla in Mount Vernon I'm hoping to attend in March. It's held the first Saturday of each month. If not, I will come to your area to meet you. I'd love to learn and compare notes with you.

Warmest Regards,

Tegan
 

Amulya

Moderator
I didn't have time to read all the 20 pages, so forgive me if I repeat something already said.

I like fusion styles, but there should be a limit somehow. Sometimes people fuse so much you can't even call it belly dance anymore. Or some things are just offensive or shocking. I saw a dance done with a saree once, it looked beautiful, the dancer was unwrapping the saree and using it as a veil. But to Hindu's that's offensive. Better not to go there. Or that scary video on youtube with the pierced wings, that's just to shock people and get attention. There was nothing artful or beautiful about that.

I think it's good to educate yourself first before using something.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc.

Again, I agree with you completely. I admire your courage in standing up for your beliefs as you do also. When someone doesn't understand what you're saying (which can happen often online) it can get ugly. :O

I would love to meet you! Do you ever get over to this area? There's a monthly Hafla in Mount Vernon I'm hoping to attend in March. It's held the first Saturday of each month. If not, I will come to your area to meet you. I'd love to learn and compare notes with you.

Warmest Regards,

Tegan
Dear Tegan,
I have not been over to the coast for a dance event in some time, probably about 3 years. I used to teach workshops in Everett pretty often. If you do get over this way, please do let me know. I would love to meet you also! Oh, and if you are interested, my dance company's website is Barharat!! and we have several events posted there that will take place in the near future.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
This is just to start everyone off again. I personally would include AmCab as Bellydance.
Hallo there!

I also include Am Cab as "bellydance" (Am Cab as we understood it before the Tribal revolution, and which we are now calling "American Classic Nightclub Bellydance" or "American Oriental" or something -- since apparently there is a NEW version of Am Cab that doesn't look like the stuff from the 70s.)

How's THAT for a mouthful!

I don't really consider AmCab a "fusion DANCE" although I do believe it's a fusion STYLE of several different Middle Eastern and Asian musical influences -- but all "belly dance."

But everyone has his/her own boundaries we put around the word "belly dance." Some are more exclusive, some more inclusive. I have my own criteria for what is and isn't "bellydance" but I can't really expect anyone else to honestly CARE about what I think :) But it's fun to talk about!

Partly because there are not an inconsiderable number of people who consider themselves to dance, or have been considered by others to dance egyptian style, when they absolutely do not in my book.
You know, I really don't know why we in the US have such problems identifying this. Jillina is often referred to as an Egyptian style dancer, and personally I just don't see it at all.

I THINK the confusion comes from the fact that we haven't seen that much Egyptian in this country for that long. While a few cities in the country have seen a lot of Egyptian and can recognize it, it's just not in every household in the Midwest, so out in the cornfields we're really not sure if it's Egyptian STYLE dancing, or just dancing to Egyptian music.

We don't have the equivalent of AmCab in the UK, or do we:?
THAT is a really interesting question. I suppose it would depend on the influences UK dancers had.

In the US, as Shareen el Safy tells it, there was a period of about a decade where a lot of Egyptian immigrants were not issued green cards, and so the dance in the US didn't have a strong guiding influence from Egypt. Our dance evolved out of a "fusion" of Greek, Lebanese, Turkish, and Armenian music and dance, because that was what was being played in the ethnic nightclubs. We didn't have access to a lot of direct Egyptian influence, so our dance became a lot LESS Egyptian that it might have been, had the Egyptians been dancing in those same nightclubs.

If you folk had access to Egyptian dancers all through your discovery of and exploration of bellydance, then I would suspect your dance would look more Egyptian. If you ONLY had access to Turkish dancers, I would assume the look would more closely resemble Turkish.

You're the UK dancer-- what do you think? :)

My first teacher advertised that she taught Egyptian dance, but when I saw an egyptian dancer, I was just blown away. I don't consider said teacher to be egyptian style, but she obviously does.
Yep. Me too. I had the same experience. My pivotal turning point was seeing Sohair Zaki on video and thinking WTF? Why am I not dancing like THAT!

If an egyptian dancer borrows a move from an AmCab dancer, is that move now bellydance.
In its originating culture, ANY dance will borrow from other influences. Flamenco did/does this, bellydance did this (Taheyya KARIOCA's last name wasn't really Karioca). Egyptians didn't invent the electric guitar, but you find it in their orchestras now.

I asked about this same thing. I think now I understand that it's not about the "move" but about how it's used. Egyptians have been adding western elements to their music and dance since at least the Casino Opera era. And Arab musical scholars have been arguing about the "authenticity" of this kind of music probably just as long :)


Can I learn egyptian dance without transforming it into a western version?
Probably. Some say no, but most say probably. You can learn to dance "without an accent." The question to be asked is, is that important to YOU? Or can you be satisfied being "Oriental Enough."


If someone tries passionately to copy egyptian style but just doesn't quite get it, are they trying to bellydance but only achieving AmCab.
I hedge my bets and say I do "Egyptian Flavored belly dance" unless I'm doing some kind of Reda choroegraphy. For Am Cab "purists" it has a vry specific movement vocabulary, the music is specific, and the routine itself has a structure. Most people call what you're talking about "Westernized Egyptian." Or you can use Egyptian TECHNIQUE without actually dancing in that relaxed Egyptian STYLE. I think the Technique and the Style are two different animals.


Does this make AmCab a lesser dance.
I don't think Am Cab implies a value judgement, because I think "Am Cab" is a direct response to the music that the dance grew up around, and as far as "authenticity" is concerned, for me that's what authenticity means. Is Am Cab an actual ethnic dance done by Egyptians? I don't think you could call it that, no. But does that mean it's somehow "lesser" or inferior because of that -- well, no I don't think so.

"Israeli" folk dance is a modern creation, based on some ethnic folk forms but based A LOT on very modern ideas and even modern music. But that doesn't mean Israeli isn't a REAL folk dance, and can't stand next to Bulgarian folk dance without being ashamed of itself. :)

It is very interesting to me that we have had a long argument about whether the term bellydance can include AmCab without any attempt to look at what makes egyptian style, egyptian style.
Oh dear, we HAVE we HAVE we HAVE had that discussion MANY MANY times -- we just didn't get around to arguing about it in detail about it in THIS thread, cause that wasn't really the point of this thread originally.
 

belly_dancer

New member
aziyade said:
I also include Am Cab as "bellydance" (Am Cab as we understood it before the Tribal revolution, and which we are now calling "American Classic Nightclub Bellydance" or "American Oriental" or something -- since apparently there is a NEW version of Am Cab that doesn't look like the stuff from the 70s.)

belly_d says:.... OMG what does NEW AmCab look like???? I thought I was a "vintage" am cab dancer (well that my dance is more "vintage"... not ME (yet!!))
& I was joking w/ another dancer who has her roots in Am Cab... & we decided that AmCab should be changed to "original fusion" (just to screw up everyone EVEN more! hehehehehe)... it COULD be debated that it is the only "TRUE" bellydance fusion... as it is fusing Mid East belly dance w/ Mid East belly dance (of differing regions)... so if you are fusing belly dance WITH belly dance... how come that does not = belly dance????
 
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